a. God speaks to Jacob. God says to Jacob, “Arise, go up to Bethel and dwell there.” It is interesting that whenever the Bible talks about going to Jerusalem that you go up. You go up to Jerusalem wherever you are at. If you are in the north or south, you go up to Jerusalem. You speak in this way because you are going up to a sacred place. You are coming out of the normal and going to a holy place. This is how God speaks of Bethel. You must go up to Bethel. Often we think of going up is the direction of north but Jacob is in the north. This is a moving toward the holy. God gives him some directions as to what to do when he gets there. God says to build an altar at Bethel. Jacob had built a memorial pillar there but not an altar. Now it was time to do that. And God gives him a third command. He says that the altar is to be dedicated to the God who appeared to Jacob when he fled from Esau. God points Jacob back to the dream of the ladder and his appearance decades ago. God is reminded Jacob of the occasion and no doubt the vow that Jacob made. The promise of God that he would be with Jacob on his journey from Bethel all those many years has finally been fulfilled. Now, Jacob must complete his vow, make God his God, and give the tenth of all that he had that he promised. And so Jacob goes to his household and begins to prepare them for the day’s journey to Bethel. But more importantly, he prepares to go to worship God. He commands his household to get rid of their idolatry, their worship of false gods, and so they give Jacob all of their foreign gods. What kind of a god is a god that you can hand in? Not much. But they turn in their statues and their earrings that showed their allegiance to these false gods. Jacob takes all these items and buries them underneath the terebinth tree near Shechem. Where did all of these things idols and earrings come from? We know that Rachel had Laban’s household gods. And from the previous chapter, we can assume that the women and children from Shechem that are now a part of Jacob’s household had their gods. So to go to Bethel and publicly worship God they had to leave their idols behind. Jacob also tells them to purify themselves and to change their clothes. This ceremony of washing and putting on new clean clothes was to be a physical demonstration of the change of heart. They are leaving behind their old sinful and idolatrous ways and are turning to the worship of the one true God, the one that had appeared to Jacob. After the purification of his house, Jacob says that they will be ready to go make an altar and worship the God who answered him in the day of his distress and had been with him wherever he went. Jacob uses the very words that he asked God all those many years before. He had asked God for help, God promised help, Jacob vowed to worship God and give a tenth, God was with him every step of the way, Jacob must now finish his vow. Verse 5 says that as they journeyed a terror from God fell upon the cities that were around them so that they did not pursue the sons of Jacob. This is what Jacob, in another day of distress, was worried about. In 34:30 he is afraid that the Canaanites and the Perizzites, the people who lived nearby, would seek to destroy them because of what his sons had done to the city of Shechem. But God is for Jacob and protects Jacob by putting fear into the hearts of the people otherwise Jacob’s fears would have been a reality. b. Jacob arrives at Bethel. Jacob and his household make their way to Bethel and Jacob builds an altar just as God commanded. Jacob names the altar, just like he named the altar that he built near Shechem. This altar he names El-bethel which means God of the house of God. The altar is dedicated to the God who revealed himself to Jacob when Jacob fled from his brother. So there, where he had raised the pillar by himself and made his vow and called the place Bethel, he returned with a large household, he had safely reunited with his brother, and now he publicly, with his household, worships the God of Bethel. The journey has finally come to an end. c. God appears again. After Jacob builds the altar God appears and confirms and establishes all that has been done. God confirms the name change of Jacob that he had received from the angel of the Lord. Jacob would no longer use the name Jacob but Israel. Not only does God confirm his name change but also confirms the covenant promises. God says that he is El-Shaddai which is the same name that he told Abraham back when God changed Abram to Abraham in Genesis 17. God also goes further back in the promise timeline than Abraham all the way back to the Creation when God told Adam to be fruitful and multiply. Remember that blessing came to Noah, then to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. God confirms that Jacob would be a nation and a company, or an assembly, of nations, and kings would come from his family.